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   Chapter 2 Skyside

Skyside: Book Five of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 13725

Updated: 2018-02-26 16:18

Chapter 2

In the center of the village, they found Kiera directing people to their new accommodations, giving directions to the bathhouse, mess hall and latrines as well as checking her clipboard to make sure people could find their way to their families.

"I think we found Julie, the activities director, " she commented to herself. Evan gave her a strange look, but didn't ask for an explanation.

"We're it, " Mateo told his fiancé. Kiera smiled tiredly at Elena.

"From what I've heard I can guess what happened and all I can say is thank you, " Kiera told her.

"A bath and a place to sleep will be thanks enough, " Elena said. She noticed Thompson eying Kiera and knew he figured out who would need to approve his inclusion in the explanations.

"Almost everyone is settled, " Kiera told her after directing a couple with a young child to the already packed bathhouse. "You might want to wait until the activity dies down before bathing. At the moment the line is pretty long."

"With so many just reaching shore I imagine it will take a while to get everyone clean. Perhaps we can talk before then. That way I can bathe, grab some food and pass out until I feel human again." Elena suggested. She smiled, resisting the urge to rub her temple from the on again off again headache she acquired since waking.

"Works for me, " Kiera looked around and realized their group was the only one left. Mateo led them all to the open sided tent he frequently used for repairs. Elena looked around as she sat down. She could see milling groups around the bathhouse and the space they used for the mess hall and figured anyone not in either of those places was getting settled in one of the small buildings being used as housing. Mateo bent to whisper something in Kiera's ear and Elena watched the woman's gaze shift from Evan to Thompson. She took a deep and shuttery breath.

"Before Elena gives us the details there is something both of you should know. It is a secret that we have kept for a long time and should word of it leak beyond this place, every one of my people will deny it and give you no proof. In fact we will do everything in our power to make you look insane." Kiera said. "Trust me when I say, we have a great deal of practice." Thompson nodded slowly as he took a seat. Evan merely looked attentive.

"My people have abilities with plants similar to the way the pilots have skills with ships, " she said. Kiera took a seed pod from her pocket and showed it to them. She closed her hand over the pod and a moment later, vines began to descend from her hand, shooting out around her fingers. Leaves unfurled and grew turning glossy green, flowers budded along the vine and blossomed into blousy white flowers. Kiera uncurled her hand and they could see small rootlets wiggling in her palm. She moved to the side of the tent and placed the pod on a patch of bare earth. She patted it down and the roots sunk into the ground. Kiera shifted the vines so they wrapped around the tent pole, using it for support.

"Oh my, that was lovely, " Evan said breaking the silence. "Can you make anything grow?"

"Yes, " Kiera replied, seeming a little relieved by his response. "We can also tell what the plant needs to thrive as well as the properties it contains."

"Very useful. I can see why you were included in this venture, " Evan said with a trace of awe. Thompson reached out and ran a finger along one of the leaves. He didn't say anything, but Elena could tell he was thinking hard. When he seemed inclined to remain quiet, Kiera continued.

"At various times people have suspected things about us, but we have always managed to dissuade them. Sometimes we convince them that they saw an optical illusion, other times we simply disappear and reappear in another town. This time when there were those who started to suspect, Elena allowed us to come here so that we could remain out of sight for a while."

Thompson looked at Elena as though studying her. "I suppose that is my cue for an explanation, " Elena said, growing uncomfortable with Thompson's scrutiny. She took a deep breath. "We arrived home, docking at Grant's Inlet. We were scheduled to begin winterizing the ship the following day as the season was nearing its end." Elena saw Mateo lift an eyebrow. He more than the others would know that the season was closed and not nearing the end, seeing her smoke screen. He nodded slightly and Elena knew she would need an additional explanation for him later.

"That night or rather early the next morning, around three am, Stephen called, " she continued still hearing the panic in his voice. "He claimed word reached them of a raid on a day care used by Kiera's people. He said that the plan was to claim some sort of outbreak or contagion and use that as an excuse to give the children blood tests and sequester them away for a time. He did not want this to happen so I called an evacuation. All pilots of my House were called to the docks along with everyone who needed passage. Knowing the Evangeline was still open, I sent the ships towards that channel. I was the last to leave and since I was known by the military and I could not tell if we were being followed, I sailed to the Marta." Elena paused and took a deep breath.

"My intentions were to lead off pursuit and then circle back to the Evangeline. However when we arrived at the Marta I found it was still passable and not yet closed for the season, so I entered the channel. The Rover, shot a grappling hook onto the Storm Chaser and were pulled through the channel with us."

"I thought the Marta was closed for the season, " Thompson said.

"It should have been, " she replied. "My only explanation is that the storm may have aided it in its unseasonable depth." It was a weak explanation and she knew it, but explaining that she had been able to stretch the channel was not something she wanted to do. It was technically speaking, not something she should have been able to do. Several days after stretching the channel she was still feeling some of the effects. Her muscles and bones ached as though she ran a marathon without first stretching and since waking; a headache had come and gone in periodic waves. Stretching a channel was something she hoped she would never have to do again.

Thompson didn't question her answer and knowing he was watching her for any sign she lied, she tried not to sigh with relief.

"Both the Marta and the Evangeline are closed now and we will need to stay skyside for the off season." She finished.

"So there is no way home until the season opens again?" Thompson asked.

"No, for the next eight to nine months, we are essentially cut off from Earth, " Elena told him. She turned back towards Mateo and Kiera. "I know there will be an increased need for supp

lies. Most of the ships will be as low as we are. Tomorrow morning I will gather the pilots and we will do an assessment. Those that can, will make supply runs to the DF and on local trade routes. Some of the ships will need off season repairs."

Mateo nodded. "We can take care of repairs, " he said and Elena knew he was thinking of Akashi and the shipyard located further up the coast. "And as I told you we have enough food and medical supplies. Other things will be in short supply."

"I've asked the new arrivals to start making lists, " Kiera said. "I should start getting those in tomorrow."

"A couple of days down time wouldn't go amiss, " Elena said. "It will give us time to rest as well as assess."

"I would like to send messages to the DF if you are willing to carry them, " Evan said. "It would be nice to have consistent communication again."

"I think we can manage that, " Elena said with a smile. "I'll have each pilot check with you or a person designated by you before shipping out to collect any messages. We'll stagger the runs so we aren't all arriving and leaving at the same time."

"Excellent, " Evan said. He turned to Kiera. "And I would like to speak more with you about your abilities my dear when you have time. I believe we have some documents that may interest you. There are stories of the Pelson from the Clovian Sector, you know. They have some legends that are very similar to what you've shown me. Or at least sound similar, it's been a while since I read them. I'll start compiling a list."

"When there is time, " Kiera promised, looking tired.

"Wonderful, " He said. Evan stood and nodded to them all. "I believe I will head back to the archives then. My thanks for allowing me into this discussion of your House and for the trust you have placed in me." Evan walked out.

"I think the mess tent has cleared out some if you want to eat before bathing, " Mateo said. He glanced at Kiera and she smiled. Kiera gestured to Thompson's duffle bag.

"I'll show you to your crew's bunk so you can drop off your gear before you eat, " She told him. Kiera stood and Thompson picked up his bag, swinging it to his shoulder as he stood. Elena and Mateo stood as well, but let Kiera and Thompson get ahead of them.

"Only engaged and you and Kiera have that couples telepathy down, " Elena said. "Very impressive."

"Not as impressive as taking two ships through a closed channel, " Mateo replied. Elena explained what happened, how she saw the edges of the channel like the layers of an onion and how she peeled them back, making the channel deep enough to pass.

"Any after effects?" He asked.

"Exhaustion, " she replied.

"Like when you first opened the channel to this planet?"

"Worse, " she confessed. "I barely managed to stay conscious between the Marta and this channel. I pulled us through and then pretty much passed out for two days straight."

"And now?"

"Achy, tired and hungry, " Elena told him. "I also have a headache that comes and goes. Each time it comes it gets less so that is encouraging."

"Mmm, " Mateo said. "I still want Lucas to check you out." He gestured to a small building on the edge of the village. "They've set up a basic office there, if my brother isn't there, Melanie will be." He pushed her towards the building. "I'll tell Thompson you are saying hello to family and we'll save you a seat in the mess hall."

"All right, " Elena conceded. At the moment, the headache was back and she thought if nothing else she might be able to convince either her cousin or his girlfriend to give her an aspirin. She headed to the infirmary while Mateo joined Kiera in distracting Thompson.

When she arrived at the infirmary, both Lucas and Melanie were present and after describing her symptoms and their cause she was subjected to their differing opinions. Since it was a rather unique case they had no definite answers. She was given two aspirins and told to eat, rest, drink lots of water and monitor her symptoms. If things got worse or didn't get better, she was to return. She thanked them and left, the two small pills in hand.

"Kind of common sense advice, but at least they gave me something for the headache, " she said to herself as she joined the others. At the mess hall she received a roll, a bowl of what looked like stew, a small salad with fresh greens that only slightly resembled lettuce and a glass of water. She took her meal to the table and settled herself between Mateo and Thompson. Kiera was called back into service as several folks got turned around and didn't quite know where their quarters were.

"Maybe we should print up maps, " Elena said. She popped the two pills into her mouth and washed them down.

"What was that?" Thompson asked suspiciously.

"I had a headache and Lucas gave me some aspirin, " She told him. He nodded and turned back to his meal.

Elena ate, listening to the chatter around her. She had to admit, the food made her feel better. When she was through, Kiera returned to show her where she would be staying as well as the quarters assigned to Jennifer. Elena checked on her apprentice and found her sprawled face down, fully dressed on her small cot. Jennifer was sound asleep. Deciding not to wake her, Elena and Benjamin returned to the ship to collect their personal gear. As all of the cabins were packed with passengers, Elena and Jennifer slept in the pilot house and both of their bags were still there. Elena grabbed Jennifer's gear as well as her own before they headed back.

"So how is Thompson taking the whole evacuation thing?" Benjamin asked as they headed back to the village.

"So far, not too badly, " she replied. Elena thought about it. "He seemed a little surprised that we are skyside until the season opens, but not terribly upset about it. Despite everything they've seen I think he still expects us to have a secret year-long channel we aren't telling him about."

"Maybe he figures that with Peter and the rest of the Council earthside, he can learn more." Benjamin guessed. Elena nearly stopped in her tracks as a thought hit her.

"Not only is the Council earthside, but so are most of the Heads of House. There is no one to pull me into politics when I go to the DF, " she said with a smile. "And Therese is earthside too, " Elena laughed. "As are Andre and Smith for that matter."

Elena did a short little dance in place as Benjamin laughed at her. They continued to the village, Elena feeling lighter with every step. All of the people giving her problems were far, far away and she had eight full months where she didn't have to deal with them. No one to push her towards taking a seat on the Council, no one to try and kill her because they thought she was stealing their place. Life was looking up.

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